By Star Lawrence
IN THE MISTY PAST—1982—an exercise
theorist named Ken Hutchins teamed with
Nautilus and the University of Florida to see
how frail older women could use professional
gym equipment to build bone and increase
strength. They found that if the women performed the exercises slowly, they achieved
both goals—increased strength and bone
Almost 20 years later, in a Massachusetts
study of older women, which was published
in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical
Fitness, participants did a dozen exercises.
The control group did 10 repetitions of each,
pulling the weight up and bringing it down in
two seconds in each direction—the usual
pace. The other group did five repetitions, 10
seconds up, four seconds down. That’s 14 seconds of muscle clenching on each rep, instead
of four. Multiply that by five reps and 12 exercises, and it’s a strenuous workout.
The bottom line was so surprising, the
researchers had to recheck it. The women who
performed slow-speed training attained 50
percent greater strength gains than the subjects who performed standard-speed training.
The 2001 Massachusetts study came as
no surprise to Hutchins, a Costco member,
who by that time had developed SuperSlow, a
trademarked form of conditioning that can be
used by people of all ages and stages of fitness.
It may be simple, but it’s not easy—and has
been known to wear out Marine drill instructors. The principle is to lift and lower weight
in each series of exercises to a slow count—
Hutchins prefers 10 seconds up, 10 down, to
the point of muscle failure. This eliminates
the use of momentum—the whole impact is
on contraction of the muscles.
Hutchins’ protocol involves six to eight
exercises, outlined in his book SuperSlow:
The Ultimate Exercise Protocol (Media
Support, 1992), a technical manual going
into its fourth printing.
While the exercises themselves are not
out of the ordinary, and can be used with
standard weight machines or free weights, it is
the approach that sets SuperSlow apart.
Using an amount of weight you can manage competently, you perform each exercise
until you can no longer lift. The program
promises optimal fitness in two 20-minute
sessions a week. Hutchins discourages running, cross-training or aerobics on the off
days. The muscles need time to recover, he
says. That is key to strengthening them.
Hutchins also believes in a quiet, cool
environment with proper equipment and
ventilation. Sweating means you have lost
mechanical efficiency, he says.
Hutchins says SuperSlow prevents injury,
as there is no jerking or pulling. He also says
there is study evidence that SuperSlow lowers
cholesterol, improves glucose economy,
increases insulin sensitivity and increases
hormonal output. It may increase bone density as much as 1 percent a month as well.
Is there anyone who should not try this?
Hutchins says he cannot think of anyone
who would not benefit. He has taught people in nursing homes to do it. “The studies
show older people benefit, beginners, people at an exercise plateau and professionals
as well,” he says.
Another criticism is that SuperSlow can
be boring. “Boring?” Hutchins exclaims. “I
have clients who have done this for 20 years.”
He adds that it’s a plus that the program
remains the same. You don’t have to learn
something new. Just do it—slowly. C
Star Lawrence is a health reporter based in
Chandler, Arizona. Her work has appeared on
WebMD and in The Washington Post.
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JUNE 2011 ;e Costco Connection 65